”Problems and solutions of ecology”
ACID RAIN POLLUTION
The Problem. Here are some facts and figures on acid rain pollution in Europe.
Seven million hectares of European forest are dead or dying because of acid rain.
Country % of Forest Dead or Dying:
West Germany 54 %
Switzerland 50 %
Netherlands 50 %
Poland 27 %
Austria 25 %
Belgium 4.5 %
Denmark 2.9 %
80% of the lakes in south Norway have acid pollution.
50% of that pollution comes from Britain.
Sweden receives 6 times more sulphur dioxide from other countries than it produces itself.
60% of Britain's sulphur dioxide comes from power stations which use coal. Britain produces 3.6 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide every year. 75% of it falls in other countries as acid rain. The soil in parts of Scandinavia is now 10 times more acid than 50 years ago. In Britain there are dangerously high levels of acid in 120 Welsh rivers and 57 Scottish lakes. When scientists tried to put new fish into one lake, all the fish died in less than two days. Acid rain doesn't just kill trees and lakes. It's also attacking many of Europe's most famous buildings -Notre Dame in Paris and St. Paul's in London, for example. Also, doctors now think that acid rain can harm people, too. Figures show more lung and kidney illness in countries with high levels of acid pollution.
^ . Is it Possible to Stop Acid Rain?
The short answer is "yes", but not quickly or easily. That's because money is at the centre of the acid rain problem. It's not cheap to make power stations or factories cleaner. In other words, less acid rain means more expensive electricity. Even so, that's a price which sonic countries are ready to pay. In 1983 a group of European nations, "The 30% Club" agreed to produce 30% less acid rain pollution by 1993. (Britain didn't join the club. Instead it agreed to spend 770 million pounds on the fight against acid rain.) The cost of their plan was $1.4 billion - an extra 4% on the average electricity bill. It’s a start, but many scientists believe it's not enough. In parts of Norway, for example, the acid level needs to be 80% lower, not 30%, to save the environment. Many young people are worried about the acid rain problem, too. In fact, several British and Norwegian schools are now twinned and send each other information about acid rain. Also, there's a project called "Acid Drops" in Britain. This helps science classes to study the problem. In 1986 (European Year of the environment) there was even an international "Acid Drops" project. Students all over Europe produced information and sent it to scientists, politicians and environmental groups like "Friends of the Earth".
he atmosphere is a blanket of gases around the Earth. For thousands of years these gases have kept the planet's temperature at about 15°C. How? By trapping some of the sun's heat. But now, because of pollution, there are more and more gases in the atmosphere. This means that the Earth is getting hotter. A greenhouse becomes hot for the same reason. Its glass lets the sun's heat pass through, then stops some of it from leaving. That's why scientists call the problem of Earth's rising temperature 'The Greenhouse Effect'.
Why is it happening?
Pollution sends 4 main 'greenhouse gases' into the atmosphere. These are:
CO2 - The most important greenhouse gas, CO2, causes half of the problem. Nearly 6 billion tonnes of it enters the atmosphere every year. How? From the burning of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil). An extra 1.5 billion tonnes every year comes from the burning of rainforest trees. This makes the problem worse in another way, too. Normally, trees absorb CO2. Today there are fewer and fewer trees. hat means inure and more CO2. In fact 50% of all carbon burned since 1850 is still in the atmosphere.
CFCs -These gases are in …
… Aerosols (Britain alone used 800 million aerosols in 1988).
… Refrigerators (the CFCs are in the liquids which keep fridges cold).
… Plastic boxes (for hamburgers, pizzas, etc.).
CFC molecules are very dangerous. Each one can trap 10,000 times more heat than a molecule of CO2. And they don't just stay in the air - they destroy it. Because of CFCs the top level of the atmosphere (the ozone) is now getting thinner.
What will it do?
Most scientists agree that the Greenhouse Effect will add between 1.5°? 4° to the Earth's temperature by 2030. (It's already 1/20 hotter than in 1900.) This will change the weather everywhere. For example, the ice at the North and South Poles will start to melt. And when that happens the level of the sea will rise. If it rises one metre by 2030 there will be serious floods in many countries. Eighteen million people will lose their homes in Bangladesh and 8 million in Egypt. A rise in sea level will have other effects, too. Holland, for example, already spends more on seawalls (as a %) than America spends on military defence. Experts think that in 50 years, the Greenhouse Effect will cost 3% of every country's money each year. Then there's the problem of food. When the climate changes there will be less food in the world. At the moment, areas like the mid-west of
America and central Russia grow a lot of wheat. In the future that may change when the USA and Russia become too dry for farming. Other countries (like Canada and Sweden) will become wetter, but that won't help. The soil there isn't as rich. It won't be possible to grow the same amount of food as before.
We can't stop the Greenhouse Effect, but we can slow it down. There are several ways to do this:
1. Conserve Fossil Fuels - Some countries have already begun. Each person in Japan, for example, uses only 50% as much coal, gas and oil as the average American.
^ -The Earth needs more trees; not fewer. South American, Asian and African countries must protect their rainforests, not cut them down.
3. Use Natural Energy - 20% of the world's energy already comes from the sun, sea and wind. To slow down the Greenhouse Effect, that number must rise to 50% in the next 20 years.
4. Ban CFCs - This is beginning to happen. Many companies have already banned CFCs. Others plan to stop using them in the next few years. If they do there may be 85% fewer CFCs by the year 2000.
Many countries bury and forget millions of tonnes of rubbish every year. But we don't have to throw away all our waste paper, glass, metal and plastic. We can also burn or recycle a lot of it. In fact waste can be wonderful stuff.
The average person in Los Angeles throws away 7 kilos of rubbish every day. The average person in the Third World throws away only I kilo of rubbish every day. Britain throws away 7 million tonnes of paper every year. That's the same as 80 million trees. In one year, a European family with two children throws away...
50 kilos of paper (that's six trees)
60 kilos of metal
45 kilos of plastic (that doesn't sound like a lot of plastic, but it is.
You need 300,000 supermarket carrier bags to make one tonne).
In one year, the average person throws away... 71 food cans, 34 cans of pet food and 68 drinks cans. Britain produces 8.5 billion cans per year. Half are for food and half are for drinks. That's enough to go to the moon and back and half-way to the moon again. England and Wales produce 500 tonnes of rubbish every year. This costs 600 million pounds to collect and bury.
Almost all supermarket food today comes in paper or plastic containers. Some of this 'packaging' is necessary. It keeps the food clean and fresh. It also makes it last longer. But some packaging isn't necessary at all. It's just there to make the food look better.
In Britain, over 75,000 people work in packaging factories.
The UK packaging industry sells 4 billion pounds of paper and plastic containers every year.
28% of domestic rubbish is packaging.
5% of all Britain's energy goes into making packaging.
^ Here are three ways to beat the throw-away society. All of them are cleaner and cheaper than burying rubbish.
1 Throw Away Less Rubbish
In Denmark, for example it's illegal to sell drinks in cans. And it's not just governments which can produce less rubbish. It's ordinary people, too. For example, anyone can decide to …buy products with as little packaging as possible
…use and throw away fewer carrier bags
...waste less paper.
How? By burning it. This is a good idea because it...
…saves fossil fuels
…means burying less rubbish
…cuts pollution. (Energy from rubbish is cleaner and cheaper than energy from fossil fuels.)
At the moment, most countries only turn between 5% and 10% of their rubbish into energy. But it s also pollute our air.
A lot of what we throw away is still useful. It's possible, in fact, to recycle 80% of domestic rubbish. This includes most kinds of paper, glass, metal and plastic. But there's a problem. Recycling is expensive. That's why (at the moment) we only recycle about 15% of glass. 20% of plastic and 30% of paper. But it's getting cheaper and easier to recycle all the time. One reason for this is the growing number of recycling centres. (For example, there are more 'bottle banks' today than ever before.)
Also, some countries now have recycling laws. These mean that super markets pay customers to return tins and bottles. Recycling ...saves trees. ...saves energy. ...saves money. ...cuts pollution.
1. Greenpeace is a very famous pressure group. It started functioning in 1971. Its headquarters are at Amsterdam, but it operates in 25 countries worldwide. The aim of Greenpeace is to protect wildlife of toxic wastes, nuclear tests.
Greenpeace activists dress as mice protesting at the risks to health and the environment from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) outside the Council of Ministers building in Brussels where Environment Ministers are discussing EU policy on GMOs.
2. “Friends of the Earth” (FoE) is one of the British pressure groups with an international reputation. Its general aim is to conserve the planet’s resources and reduce pollution. FoE was established in 1971 and now it operated in 44 countries worldwide. It campaigns among other things, for recycling and renewable energy, and the destruction of wildlife and habitat.
3. For example, in 1989 in Australia, Sydney was founded organization. It was called “Clean up Australia” the following years 110 countries hold the similar actions within the ecological program of the UNO.
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